Hello, code ninjas! Today, we are about to delve into the fascinating world of Python and discuss a common stumbling block for beginners and even seasoned coders – the usage of import *. By the end of this tutorial, you’ll understand why overusing this statement may pose a problem and how to navigate your way towards cleaner, more efficient, and reliable code.
Table of contents
What Does “import *” Mean?
In Python, import * is a statement used for importing all functions, classes, and variables from another module. It’s similar to saying “Give me everything you’ve got!” to the module you are importing into your code. This can simplify code writing, especially when dealing with modules with an extensive amount of functions or classes.
Why is it Generally Advised Against?
While using import * might seem like a advantageous shortcut in the short run, it often leads to code that can be at best confusing and at worst problematic. With import *, all the functions and classes from another module get imported into your current namespace which can cause naming clashes, and debugging nightmares.
Why Should You Learn this?
Understanding why import * is not a recommended practice is a significant step towards mastering Python. It helps you develop good programming habits, encourages the separation of concerns, and facilitates readable and maintainable code. Moreover, your projects will be a lot more reliable as the risk of runtime errors due to naming conflicts significantly decreases.
So, let’s dive into coding and see how using import * can affect our Python projects.
How “import *” Works
Let’s start by using import * in a basic script. Consider the file example_module.py with the following content:
# example_module.py def greet(name): return "Hello, " + name def farewell(name): return "Goodbye, " + name
You can use import * to import everything from the module:
# main.py from example_module import * print(greet("Coder")) print(farewell("Coder"))
The issue with import * arises when two or more modules have functions or classes with the same name:
# another_module.py def greet(name): return "Hey, " + name
Now, if we try to use import * for both modules:
# main.py from example_module import * from another_module import * print(greet("Coder"))
The output will be “Hey, Coder” because the function from another_module overwrote the first one without warning. This is the kind of problem import * can lead to, which could be a big headache to debug.
How to Import Correctly
Instead of using import *, you can import whole modules or just the features you need, like so:
# main.py import example_module import another_module print(example_module.greet("Coder")) print(another_module.greet("Coder"))
Or even better, import just the features you need:
# main.py from example_module import greet print(greet("Coder"))
Doing this ensures no conflicts arise due to overwriting.
Importing Specific Functions
When working with larger modules, it’s often beneficial to import only the specific functions you need. Below is an example of how to do this:
from example_module import greet print(greet("Coder"))
Now, if we try to call a function that we didn’t specifically import, Python throws an error:
from example_module import greet print(farewell("Coder")) # NameError: name 'farewell' is not defined
Importing with Aliases
There can be situations when function names are long or conflict with your variable names. Python provides a way to alias imported functions:
from example_module import greet as hello print(hello("Coder"))
Importing Multiple Functions
You can import multiple functions in a single line of code:
from example_module import greet, farewell print(greet("Coder")) print(farewell("Coder"))
Importing Entire Modules
You can import the whole module instead of individual functions. This way, there won’t be any naming conflicts in your namespace:
import example_module print(example_module.greet("Coder")) print(example_module.farewell("Coder"))
Understanding Import Order
In Python, the order of imports matters. It’s important to understand that further imports can overwrite previous ones:
from example_module import greet # returns "Hello, ..." from another_module import greet # returns "Hey, ..." print(greet("Coder")) # output: "Hey, Coder"
In this example, the last imported greet function overwrites the first one. This underlines the necessity to avoid overbroad importing like import *.
Where to Go Next?
Now that we’ve uncovered the reasons to reconsider the use of import * in Python, you may be wondering what the next step is in your coding journey. Don’t worry, we’ve got you covered!
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